To convert or not to convert?

For the last several years I've considered rolling my traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, but laziness, indifference, and an abundance of more important things to do than spending time calculating the tax implications of such a move always pushed this activity to the bottom of my list.

This year I have no excuse. And if I did, Jonathan at MyMoneyBlog has again reminded me.

With consideration to the other excuses, time is the main thing that has kept me from acting. It's a pretty cumbersome task to manually calculate whether this is a smart move given the multitude of variables. Well, thank God for the Internet! I Googled "to convert to a Roth IRA or not?" and found this terrific calculator.

I will have to pay ordinary federal income tax on the value of the IRA to be converted, but with some pretty conservative estimates (of my future investment return + a wild-ass guess at what my retirement tax rate will be), it clearly makes sense to convert. Tomorrow is the deadline, so I'll be stopping by Scottrade tomorrow.


Welcome to the club, brother!

For the first time in my life I had absolute and perfect clarity. When my first daughter, Fiona, was born, I remember the awareness so vividly. Before kids, I didn't know what I didn't know. As soon as I held her, I remember thinking, "Now I get it." I understood why I was placed on this earth: to love and care for my daughter. I'm doubly sure of that purpose now that I have two girls.

And so 34 years later, and after 39 weeks of waiting, my brother and his wife have joined the club as well. Welcome to life, Timothy; we'll see you this weekend!


Outlaws on Delta Flight # 749

Working in the dot com travel world, I'm on the road (or planes) a lot, though surprisingly I don't see many famous faces when I travel. My closest brush with fame was about 12 years ago when I not only got to see but actually sat next to the 2-time Super Bowl MVP and 3-time Super Bowl winning quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys: Troy Aikman. It was during the offseason, and he was flying back from D.C. to Dallas. He was quiet, reserved, and very gracious to the dozens of autograph seekers... including me.

I thought that my recent sighting of Hulk Hogan getting searched by security at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport was an abberation, but perhaps it may have been the start to something.

I'm thinking that I may be on a roll because today I was on a flight next to Monte Yoho from the 70's band The Outlaws. I'd never heard of them before, but they play southern rock-n-roll, and I liked the mp3s on their site. In fact, I liked them so much I bought their Best of The Outlaws: Green Grass and High Tides album on iTunes. Monte was a really nice guy--genuine, unpretentious, and a real artist!


Men's Restrooms are Disgusting

Since reporting several months ago that my oldest daughter is potty training, things have gotten better. To combat the issue of being woken up at 3:00am, Fiona is wearing an overnight diaper, so everyone is getting a good night's sleep.

With my project house complete, I've been able to spend a lot more time on the weekends with the family. And since my wife and I share responsibilities, I've recently had more opportunities to take Fiona to go potty in public restrooms. Through these public potty outings, I've become consciously aware of something that I've known all of my life but never cared about: men's restrooms are disgusting. For women fortunate enough to have never ventured into one, let me paint the picture:

Men have bad aim. I have never gone into a men's restroom and seen a floor devoid of urine. At best there is just a puddle around the toilets, and at worst there is a 1/4 inch of urine covering the floor. Yes, it's disgusting.

Men have bad aim + men are inherently lazy. If a urinal isn't available and they're forced to use a commode, few men take the effort to raise the toilet seat before taking a whiz. And just as men pee all over the bathroom floor, they also pee on toilet seats as well.

Men have bad aim + men are inherently lazy + men use bathrooms to purge waste. Men not only use bathrooms for going pee and poo, but men also use bathrooms to blow their nose... and few use a kleenex or handkerchief so the snot ends up on the wall or floor. Disgusting, I know, but wait--there's more!

From my unscientific sampling, 50% of the toilet seats in men's restrooms are broken or otherwise defective. Of this 50%, most have a hinge broken or are poorly installed, resulting in a very unstable seat... especially for a 3 year-old. From this same unscientific sampling, 15% of bathroom stalls in men's restrooms lack a suitable product with which to wipe. Most are simply out of toilet paper; others have toilet paper stained by a previous occupant's errant pee stream; and some have a broken holder which dispenses single squares... if you're lucky.

And upon using a road-side gas station bathroom, if a man suddenly finds himself randy on his way out the door, there is usually an assortment of condoms and novelties available for purchase from a bathroom wall dispenser like this one in a Mississippi gas station.

My picture is painted. As a result of the general disgusting condition of men's restrooms, I have a simple rule for my daughter when I take her to go potty: sit still and don't touch a thing!


Michael Vick's Legacy

Michael Vick is many things to many people--for one thing, he's a great rusher. After Sunday's loss to the Saints, Vick is ranked #11 in the NFL for rushing yards this season, racking up 870... and ranked #12 is Warrick Dunn, Atlanta's running back, with 865 yards. And therein lies the problem.

For all of the positives, the biggest negative about Vick is that he's not a quarterback. His QB rating of 72.1 is in the bottom third of quarterbacks in the NFL.

With all of the pre-season hype about the Atlanta Falcons making it into playoffs this year, a four game losing streak (which included losses to two of the perennially worst teams in football--the Lions and Browns) is quite a surprise to us fans.

Vick's contract pays him $130 million over 10 years, which comes to around $800,000 per regular-season game. As the quarterback, and thus the team leader, Vick is not earning his pay this year.

And with all of that context, Vick and the Falcons were justifiably "booed" as they exited the field on Sunday after getting spanked 31-13 by the New Orleans Saints. So how does the team leader... the face of this franchise respond to the deserved criticism? It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case it is.


Texas or bust!

Tomorrow we leave on our annual pilgrimage to Texas to visit family over Thanksgiving, and as usual, we're driving. While it's going to be a very long trip, there are several things I'm thankful for which will make the drive easier & safer (in no particular order):

  • Minivans
  • Cruise control
  • Portable DVD players
  • Interstate freeways
  • MP3 players
  • Child car seats
  • Texas' open container law (prior to Sept 1, 2001, it was legal to have an open alcoholic beverage in a vehicle as long as it wasn't in the hands of the driver)


It's your turn, Democrats

As my profile reads, I'm really a cynical, independent-minded voter who doesn't trust Republicans or Democrats to do, solve, or save me from anything. I'm technically a libertarian who believes in limited (small) government, an equitable tax structure, diplomacy over bombs, and balancing the budget followed by paying off the debt--everything the Bush-led Republican administration (including Congress) is not. So with Jim Webb securing the win in Virginia, both the House and Senate are in the hands of Democrats. There is now an overseer to the unchecked power wielded by the executive branch over the last 5 years. I have renewed faith in the American electorate.

How big of a win was this? Republicans did not win any of the Democrat-held House seats, not a single Democrat-held Senate seat went to a Republican, and they won none of the Democrat-held Governors races. In Bush's words, "It was a thumping."

Dems, come January 3, 2007, it's your turn.

I'll close with the sage words spoken on February 12, 2002, by our soon-to-be former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld:

As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns - that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.


Christianity in the news

And yet another reminder of why Christians should fight the cult of personality is in the news today over the accusations against the founder and senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Ted Haggard. Haggard was #11 on Time magazine's list of influential evangelicals last year and is also president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals. While I sincerely hope that some of the accusations aren't true, in a statement reminiscent of Clinton's infamous, "I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it and didn't inhale," Haggard admitted that some of the allegations were true, stating, "I bought it [methamphetamines] for myself but never used it." He also admitted to paying for a massage from his accuser.

It should also be mentioned that Mr. Haggard was a founder of the group Coloradans for Marriage, which fought to put a state constitutional amendment on next week's ballot to ban same-sex marriage in Colorado.

I'm sure there is a lot more to this story that will surface in the days, weeks, and months ahead, but I'm reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew 7:1-2,

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
As such, I'm not judging Mr. Haggard. I do feel sorry for his wife, 5 kids, and the 14,000 members of New Life Church. It's also embarrassing as a Christian because right or wrong, Mr. Haggard's actions are a very public and yet poor example of how to live like Jesus.


One of the best days of my life

Saturday was one of the best days of my life. With my wife and infant daughter out of town, my oldest daughter and I made the 70+ mile trip north to Blue Ridge, GA, and rode the train on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway up & back to McCaysville, GA/Copperhill, TN (they're really one city with a painted blue stripe through downtown to show where the state line is).

Before the train left the station, we walked through the passenger cars to the commissary car for a box of popcorn and drinks. With temperatures in the high 40's, I convinced Fiona to sit in a climate-controlled (heated) car on the trip north. We enjoyed lunch at the Iron Horse Grill, and with warmer temperatures, returned to the train and boarded the open-air car originally reserved for the trip back to Blue Ridge.

It had rained during our drive to Blue Ridge, but the sun finally came out, and the scenery on the drive home was picturesque. Then after a brief nap, Fiona put on her princess dress, shoes, tiara, and clip-on earrings, and we went to "Trick or Treat" night at Imagine It!, The Children's Museum of Atlanta. It's a day I'll never forget and is one I'd relive in a heartbeat.


Stay the Course

Who is the real flip-flopper?

Absentee voting

I know I haven't written much about politics lately, and it isn't for lack of interest but rather it's for lack of time given the abundance of topics to address. I will mention one, however: the loss of liberty. I am reminded of this quote by Benjamin Franklin:

Those willing to give up a little liberty for a little security deserve neither security nor liberty.
On my birthday last week, President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law. With it, he legalized torture and eliminated the right of habeas corpus, granted in Article I, Section 9 of our Constitution. My thoughts on Bush's action are best summarized by the words of Keith Olbermann, who said, "We now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering: A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from."

I'm going to vote absentee today, and I'll let my bumper sticker do the rest of my talking.


Death and Taxes

Yes, the only two certainties in life are these for Americans. Of course if you're in the marjority in sub-Saharan Africa, your two certainties would be death and poverty, so I'll consider myself fortunate.

For most U.S. citizens, October 16, 2006, was just another pretty fall day... or a chilly, rainy one if you live in metro Atlanta. For procrastinators like me, though, it held special significance because it is today that 2005 taxes are due.

As someone with an accounting degree, I feel a compulsion to be actively involved in this annual rite. In total, I probably spent ~ 30 hours working on taxes. This year was good--I guessed correctly back in April when I didn't submit a check to the IRS along with my extension. So I'll get some pocket change back within the next 6-8 weeks after they go through my 40+ page return (things get complicated when you own a business).

I have a young, impressionable friend from my former North Point community group who is crazy for Neal Boortz's Fair Tax idea. He probably would have been equally excited about Steve Forbes' Flat Tax plan had he been old enough to vote back in 1996 & again in 2000 when Forbes had this as the basis for his platform in his failed attempts to capture the Republican nomination for President. Here was my response to my friend's request to "run out, buy the book (Boortz's Fair Tax), and get on board":

As long as they're not oppressive, people don't really give a shit about making tax simple or fair. They're more interested in good schools, clean air, cheap gas, homeland security, and who Paris Hilton slept with last night. But that's not the main reason I think it's a pipe dream. The reality is that tens of thousands of individuals have a vested interest in keeping our tax structure incomprehensible: accountants, auditors, tax preparers, attorneys, software developers, and a huge branch of the government--the IRS, just to name a few.

I give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but not a penny more. Not including FICA or Medicare, last year I paid 8% of gross income in federal income tax. I fall into the 28% tax bracket. Why the disparity? Ignorance is expensive, so I got an accounting degree with a concentration in tax. I have a better understanding of tax law than most.
This friend was floored when I told him that the Fair Tax plan will never see the light of day through any legislative action. The problem with ideas like the fair or flat tax is that they're rational. Huh? Yes, the fundamental problem with a simplified "fair" or flat tax plan is that it's rational.

Government isn't about rational. Government is about power, control, and influence.

And with 60% of taxpayers using a professional to prepare their returns, it's only getting more complicated.


The terrorists have won

I’m in the middle of several weeks of back-to-back travel: south Florida and Orlando are complete, and Montreal, Quebec is this week. After consciously and overtly breaking TSA rules, I decided to try and be a reformed traveler after they relaxed the ban on carry-on liquids and gels. In doing so, I’ve had to eliminate two items because of their size: 1) cologne, which usually just took up space and remained unused in my toiletry bag –and- 2) aftershave, but the hotel room lotion is an acceptable substitute.

Since the relaxed carry-on ban, my trips through security have been uneventful with the exception of a late-night flight from ATL to FLL when Hulk Hogan and his daughter were immediately behind me in the security line. If you’ve only seen him on TV, it doesn’t do his size justice. He’s big—really, really big. The other thing that doesn’t come through on TV is that he’s really old. He obviously has some replacement parts made of metal because after stripping down he still sent the metal detector off and had to go through additional screening. Seeing a 5’4” skinny kid wand the 6’+ Hulk Hogan was pretty funny. I went for my digital camera to try and snap a picture, but the camera took 2 seconds too long to open the shutter and charge the flash so I missed the moment. Sometimes low-tech 35mm IS the best solution.

Well today I decided to get to the airport early for my flight to Montreal so that I could check my bag since it was an international flight. And planning to check my bag, I put the cologne and aftershave back with my toiletries. As often happens, though, I was 15 minutes late out the door which translates into 30 minutes later arriving at The Parking Spot because of the additional traffic the closer it gets to rush hour. When the shuttle van dropped me off at Hartsfield it was 55 minutes before my flight, and international flights have a 1 hour cutoff for checked baggage. It was time to revert back to my felonious ways and pocket my cologne and aftershave. The deodorant, hair gel, toothpaste, and shampoo all went into my quart-size Ziploc bag.

Things went well going through security until they stopped the belt and asked, “Whose bag is this?” Seeing the red tub of hair gel, I went to claim it, but it was then I realized the terrorists have won. Despite having made it through security on 4 other occasions, my deodorant was deemed to be a threat to the safety of passengers and crew because it was 4 oz. rather than the 3 oz. limit. I tried to argue that because I’d been using that particular stick of gel deodorant for over a month that surely there was less than 4 oz. remaining, but all my argument did was confuse the poor guy so I gave up that small fight to win the bigger battle. As I took the escalator down to the underground shuttles for my A terminal destination, I slipped the bottle of cologne and aftershave into my bag.

Fortunately you can rest easy knowing the brave TSA associates fighting on the front-line in our global struggle against terrorism thwarted my attempted security breach. But that will be their last win against me. The next time I go through security with toiletries, I’ll be sure to sail through by pocketing the deodorant too.


Falling nuts in Georgia

For the last few weeks, I've felt like I've been in a bad episode of Dora the Explorer. There's one where Dora and Boots have to run through a forest with falling nuts, and that's exactly what is happening now in Georgia.

We have a few oak trees in our yard... actually we have about 50, and every autumn just before turning brilliant fall colors, they torture us by dropping acorns. To those who have never experienced this, if you can imagine the sound of thousands of 1" diameter rocks pelting your roof and aluminum gutters at random intervals day and night for weeks at a time, you've gotten the gist.

Some years the trees produce fewer and other years they produce more acorns. This year is one of the worst I can remember. The picture showing these acorns wasn't staged--it's an accurate reflection of how dense these things are falling and what most of the front and back yard looks like. Of course the basket was staged, but that's what my toddler was using to try and help my wife pick these up so we can avoid having a forest of miniature oak trees sprouting up in the yard.

I think one of my projects for the spring may be to take down a few trees whose branches are now hanging over the house.

Man of class vs. Man of shame

I'm not much of a golfer, but when I lived in Dallas/Fort Worth, I always attended the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament. In fact, I took my wife on our first date to the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament... along with my Dad! We had a great spot just off the green on #17 where we spent most of our time. The highlight was when Tiger Woods birdied the hole and passed within a couple of feet of us on his way to the 18th hole where he won the tournament.

So I was saddened to read that the golf legend, Byron Nelson, for whom the Byron Nelson Championship is named, died yesterday at his home near Fort Worth, Texas, at the well-lived age of 94.

Also on my Yahoo sports page is the story about Dallas/Fort Worth's most shameful athlete--the perennial embarrassment, Terrell Eldorado Owens, who reportedly attempted suicide yesterday. I have compassion on people who show the humility necessary to admit they have problems, but Mr. Owens has never been one to exhibit this. He obviously has some serious issues that need professional help, but don't expect any sympathy from Dorkydad.


Humping the living crap out of a midget

If you've subscribed to my blog via RSS, was it the title of today's blog that caught your attention? I'll explain this title in a minute.

Maybe I'm living under a rock, but I didn't realize until recently that Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has been blogging since October of last year. Not only are Scott's Dilbert cartoons hilarious, but his blog is too... an example of such is the title of my blog today, taken from his post last Friday about Michael Jackson opening a leprechaun-themed amusement park in Ireland.

And if you're looking for something lighter, I'd steer clear of this: Scott Adams is offering his book, God's Debris, for free in pdf format. The reason?

It’s free because it’s designed to be discussed with people who have also read it. I’m confident that some percentage of the free e-book readers will be inspired to buy a physical book for friends or for their own collection. And if you like it, you might want to try the sequel, The Religion War, available only in hardcover. At the end of the e-book you’ll find some links to Amazon.com for your impulse-buying pleasure.
And a warning from Scott...
Still, God's Debris is emphatically not for everyone. Although there’s no sex or violence, I don’t recommend it for readers under fourteen unless a parent has screened it. And if you don’t like to have your perceptions challenged, this book isn’t for you. However, if you like a good book-induced buzz now and then, I think you’ll agree that the price was right.
Unfortunately, I don't see many of my conservative Christian friends reading this just as they avoided seeing The Da Vinci Code.


Free Domain Registration

I've been kicking around the idea of starting a blog completely devoted to fiscal discipline (i.e., being frugal) and unencumbered by my political and religious diatribes. If I do this, the blog probably won't be hosted through Blogger to allow me to own the domain name. So being the cheap bastard that I am, I did a Google search on "free domain registration", and I wasn't surprised to learn that a company is doing this. I was surprised to find out who: Microsoft!

Microsoft is only offering this promotion while they beta test some Office Live tools, but hey--free is free!


Not a very motivating or productive week

So let me help bring your productivity down as well with a game of Pac-Man! I stumbled upon Bunchball, a very cool site that gives away Flash-embedded code for innumerable games, widgets, photo sharing, chat, and more.


Kangaroos and train rides in the fall

The title sounds like it might be a children's book, but kangaroos and train rides are just two of the many unexpected things you'll discover in the peach state.

Those of you not lucky enough to live in Georgia should spend a vacation here, and I'd suggest fall as the season to visit. Last October we started a family tradition of visiting a "pick your own" pumpkin patch. While there is a pumpkin farm really close by, taking a weekend drive up to the north Georgia (Appalachian) mountains is half the fun (especially with gas prices finally falling!) and it gives you a chance to see fall foliage several weeks earlier than in Atlanta.

There are several pumpkin patches in north Georgia, but the one with the best reputation, and deservedly so, is Burt's Farm (see some great photos here) in Dawsonville. After taking the kids on a hayride, you can pick your own pumpkin, and then torture yourself fighting the urge to buy a pumpkin pie on your way out of their store.

As if Burt's Farm wasn't enough to put Dawsonville on the map, this small Georgia town is also home to the largest collection of kangaroos outside of the Austrailian Outback! The Kangaroo Conservation Center not only has over 200 kangaroos on its 87-acre wildlife sanctuary, but wallabies, kookaburras, and bettongs as well. We haven't yet visited the kangaroos, but I'm sure as my daughters get older we will.

Just an hour north is the main event of a memorable fall day--a 26-mile ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The train leaves Blue Ridge, GA, and travels north to the shared downtown of both McCaysville, GA, and Copperhill, TN. We've got our tickets for the 10:00am train on Saturday, October 28, and I can't wait!


Keith Olbermann echoes my sentiments

Keith Olbermann echoes my sentiments on 9/11.


Why I think my west coast friends are crazy

Forbes has a new article out addressing the shift in real estate from a seller's market to a buyer's market. I didn't find the article that revealing, but it did point me to empirical proof that Atlanta offers terrific real estate value relative to the rest of the country.

With the nation sitting at a median housing price of $225,000, metro Atlanta has a median price of just $172,722 which is 23% less than the national average.

The title of today's post not only applies to many cities on the west coast, but Boston, Washington D.C., and Miami as well.

For my friends out west, the graph of San Diego reflects the norm in most west coast markets where the median price of a single family home is two to three times the national average, which is incomprehensible to me. While I think the views can be spectacular, perhaps I'm myopic, but I don't see the appeal of paying a 100-200% premium for the privilege of living there.


10k Test this Morning

We'll see if I'm up to the challenge. In less than an hour, I'll be running the U.S. 10k Classic race.

I thought it would be wise to rent a ChampionChip for this race to accurately time my results. Unfortunately, I neglected to anticipate how attractive a small, black, plastic device would be to a 2 1/2 year old, and its whereabouts are currently unknown. My wife and I did a frantic search last night to no avail, so I'm now on the hook for the $30 purchase price, get blacklisted from area races for up to 12 months, and risk not getting a t-shirt, or racing hat.

While I haven't been as disciplined as I would have liked, I should finish this race in ~ 45 minutes, despite the nature of the course--very hilly.


Two Milestones

Starting something and "sticking with it" isn't a trait people with ADHD are known for so I'm both surprised and pleased that I've now been blogging for over a year, the first milestone (and my first blog posting remains one of the most frequently-viewed pages).

The second milestone is one to really celebrate. The punchlist from my project house only has two items left: a second coat of paint on the garage doors & replacing two rails on the deck, which will take about an hour to complete. As a result, my family finally gets me back on the weekends. Today we had breakfast together and then went to the park to play T-ball and swing. In celebration of this momentous occasion, my wife and daughters presented me with two iTunes-created CDs, the first entitled, "Thank God It's Over".

Here is the playlist:

  1. Burning Down the House / Talking Heads
  2. Paint It Black /U2
  3. Crumblin' Down / John Cougar Mellencamp
  4. Sledgehammer / Peter Gabriel
  5. You Wreck Me / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  6. Finest Worksong / R.E.M.
  7. Hammer and a Nail / Indigo Girls
  8. Digging in the Dirt / Peter Gabriel
  9. Building a Mystery / Sarah McLachlan
  10. Fix You / Coldplay
  11. Wonderwall / Oasis
  12. Over My Head / The Fray
  13. My Own Two Hands / Ben Harper & Jack Johnson
  14. Who Needs Sleep? / Barenaked Ladies
  15. Room Without a View / The Smithereens
  16. In Your Room / The Bangles


Insane Week

It's only Thursday, and yet I've already had an exceptionally busy week complete with my daughter's first Atlanta Braves baseball game, another trip out to the smartest city in the U.S., lunch with the smartest guy I know, my first red-eye flight in years, a job interview (which was not related to the aforementioned lunch... half-way through my interview I realized, "No way would I ever want to work for this person!"), a trip to the Atlanta Toolbank (my favorite 501c3 in Atlanta), and a crummy Falcons preseason game where the first-string players didn't even play!


Ruse of Transportation Safety

After the London arrests in the plot to blow up U.S.-bound flights, the oxymoronically-named Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implemented new security screening procedures in a vain attempt to make airline travel more secure.

One of the most absurd policies state that, "Beverages purchased in the boarding area beyond the screening checkpoint will not be allowed on board, and must be consumed before boarding." What this means is that beverages which have already passed through security are a risk to in-flight airline safety. So would this not mean that the mere presence of these security risks (formerly known as beverages) in a secure area renders the "secure area" to really be insecure?

I'll confess that I contributed to the insecurity last week on my trip. At the risk of arrest, confinement, illegal wiretaps, and everything else that could potentially result, I carried a travel-sized tube of toothpaste in my pocket to prove that regardless of how better the mousetrap, the mouse will still win. I wasn't frisked, questioned, or even given a second look when I passed through the metal detector with my contraband toothpaste.

And despite the newest policy which mandates all shoes (sandals, etc.) be sent through x-ray screening, I wasn't required to take off my Tevas as I passed through security on my outbound flight, but I was on my return. I'd suggest that I have an exponentially higher likelihood of catching athlete's foot as I walk barefoot through security than being victim of a terrorist act as the result of a shoe bomb, and it has nothing to do with airline security. In fact, after reading TSA's explanation of why they've implemented this new screening procedure, I'd suggest that someone carrying the balloon-filled explosive in a shoe would merely transfer the explosive to their pocket and then return it to their shoe after passing through "security".

Q: What are the most oft feared words to a taxpayer?
A: "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help!"


New meaning to Sleepless in Seattle

I love trying out new hotels, and while I previously stated that I'd stay at the MarQueen Hotel should my travels ever bring me back to Seattle, regrettably they were sold out during my visit last week.

By my count, Noble House has a collection of 12 fantastic resorts/hotels throughout the U.S. On my last trip I strolled past The Edgewater, billed as Seattle's only waterfront hotel, and made a mental note to try and stay there some day.

Last week I had the opportunity, and if you stop reading now, know that The Edgewater is probably a fantastic hotel if you pony up the bucks and book a waterfront guestroom with panoramic view. The view from the sitting area in the lobby is fantastic as is the view from their restaurant, Six Seven (the hotel & restaurant are at Pier 67).

I tend to be a cheap bastard, so I booked a cityside guestroom--bad move. I'm sure these cityside rooms are why the hotel is only ranked #22 out of 114 hotels on TripAdvisor. My room was small--New York City small, and I'm not into the rustic, log cabin look, but whatever. The gas fireplace which also serves as the heat source for the room is a nice touch, but it wasn't cold enough to use it. My room overlooked the porticochere with a view of the parking lot and the railroad tracks. Yes, I said railroad tracks. For those who like to sleep when they're visiting a hotel, know that the trains do run through the night. I seldom say never, so I will instead say that I hope to never return.


Blogger hell

Blogger is trying to push a new version of their software which is in beta... and I've just "regained" control of my blog after a week of being locked out.


Are you ready for some football?

I love this time of year when summer winds down and hints of fall begin to appear like this Friday night when I get to tear off and use the first of my 10 season tickets to see the Atlanta Falcons play the New England Patriots. It's been WAY too long!

Though Brian Finneran is out for the season, there's still hope for the receiving corps. And while I prefer Matt Schaub to Michael Vick, maybe this is the season Vick makes me a believer. The Falcons have a healthy and upgraded defense. Is this the year for Atlanta? All I know is that every team is a Super Bowl contender at the start of the season, and right now hopes run high.


Abu Ghraib: just the tip of the iceberg?

After reading this article in the Baltimore Sun about atrocities committed by service members in Vietnam and what the Pentagon did to prosecute those involved, I feel so relieved to know that this same Pentagon is responsible for investigating and prosecuting the rape and murder of a 14-year old girl along with the murder of her 5-year old sister, mother, and father.

Fortunately the Pentagon meted out some serious justice to Sgt. Milton Ortiz Jr. of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard, as the U.S. Command announced just Saturday that Ortiz was reduced in rank to specialist after pleading guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice by placing a rifle near a mortally wounded Iraqi in February and threatening and assaulting an Iraqi in March.

The charges against Ortiz resulted from the killing of an unarmed Iraqi near Ramadi by Spc. Nathan Lynn, who was cleared last month of manslaughter and conspiring to obstruct justice.

And don't get these stories confused with the Article 32 hearing that was completed on Friday in Tikrit where four soldiers from Company C, Third Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, were accused of killing three Iraqi detainees in Samarra three months ago. No decision on a trial was announced.

There is also the somewhat forgotten case of the November 19, 2005, murder of 15 civilians by Marines that seems to be in a perpetual state of "investigation".


60mph winds + penny-sized hail = trouble

It's blurry because the photo is from my camera phone, but I had a tree fall and hit the roof of one of my rental homes. While the tenant has started moving his things into the house, fortunately he isn't living there yet.

The tree knocked down the new gutter & downspout I just installed, but because I went with PVC gutters rather than aluminum, I was able to get it re-hung pretty quickly.


No global warming?

I don't know the root cause--whether it's natural or manmade--but when I experience Chicago at 97 degrees while Atlanta is "only" 87 degrees, I know that our climate is changing.


The sermons you'll never hear Andy Stanley preach

Keep this in perspective: I love Andy Stanley.

Andy is only human, though, so at times, he disappoints me... like last year when he blasphemously called George W. Bush a hero.

No, Andy, "W" isn't a hero, but Pastor Greg Boyd of the Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, certainly is.

I don't believe Andy is as politically active as his father, but I do know (from my conversation with him last year) that he is a Republican and supports the president's actions. So regrettably, you'll never hear anything like Greg's "Kingdom" series coming from the pulpit of North Point Community Church anytime soon.

Mind on the gutters

I closed on my first rental house on September 7, 2001. It took nearly a year, but my wife and I did a complete remodel to the property ourselves, including a tear-down of an addition to the house that accounted for nearly 1/3 of the home's square footage. That addition needed to go--the roof leaked and termites and carpenter ants were feasting on its walls.

Now almost 5 years later, tomorrow I start the last remaining punchlist item on this remodel: gutters.


Inattention to detail

As mentioned previously, I've been in the Austin, TX area this week. The new Hyatt Lost Pines Resort & Spa is a really nice getaway for the central Texas area, but there seems to be a real inattention to detail that will hopefully be corrected in time. As an example, the typo on this sign posted outside the elevator doors has driven me crazy every time I ride the elevator to and from my guest room.

And then walking down the hallway to my room, I see towels used to keep doors open to housekeeping supplies as well as this area of damaged wallpaper seen here... unacceptable for a resort which hasn't even been open two months.


Another week, another city

I'm on the road for the next 5 consecutive weeks. This week I spent the last four days in Seattle, and it was made much more enjoyable by the awesome weather (sunny skies with highs in the mid-70's & lows in the 50's), lunch with one of the nicest and by far the smartest guy I know (who, on his first day back after a 2-week vacation, took an hour out of his day, for which I'm truly grateful), good company of my two amigos, and a really great hotel. The MarQueen Hotel is the result of a terrific renovation of an historic apartment building.

The guest rooms are huge. Mine had a walk-in closet, nice firm bed, a full refrigerator, high-speed Internet access, double-insulated vinyl windows (important in historical buildings since new windows keep the street-noise out), and the bathroom looked like it was renovated last week. So while I'm a fan of Westin, I'll be staying at the MarQueen should my travel plans ever again include Seattle.

Next week: Austin area.


Novotel New York is a Red Roof Inn in disguise

My new job started this past Monday, and what I thought was going to be a nice lull has turned into nothing but. I'd never met my new boss, and we'd only spoken twice, so I didn't recognize his voice when he called Tuesday morning and jumped right into a conversation about a customer I'll be working with. Thank goodness for caller ID, as it tipped me off as to where the call was coming from (and therefore that it might be him).

He asked if I wanted to make a trip up to New York later in the week to meet with this customer, and of course my response was affirmative. The Big Apple is having a really good year, and hotel rates are outrageous because rooms are scarce, so I choked when I booked the $300+ room at the Novotel New York. Novotel is owned by Accor, and in North America, they're best known for owning Red Roof Inns, Motel 6, and Studio 6.

If it didn't have a restaurant, the Novotel New York would be a Red Roof Inn. I arrived late into New York because of flight delays due a tornado north of the city and other bad weather, so I was very late checking in. The first sign I was in trouble was when I opened the door and the stench of stale cigarette smoke hit me. I immediately looked for and found the ashtray on the nightstand, confirming I'd been put into a smoking room. A call to the front desk confirmed my fear that smoking rooms were all they had left. I wish more hotel chains would adopt Westin Hotels' smoke free policy.

It was late; I was tired, so I went straight to bed. Morning came early, and I did a 6-mile run through Central Park. Arriving back at the hotel to take a shower, it surprised me that a hotel charging over $300 per night for a room has the amenity set in this picture--shampoo with the consistency of dishwashing soap, hand lotion which could be used to lubricate wheel bearings it's so greasy, and two "bars" of generic soap all on a plastic tray.

At least the bed was comfortable.


Thank you, Mom!

My parents have very practical skills, so when they visit, there is usually a small (or not-so-small) project that they tackle, like back in February when my Dad helped me with my rental house or the time my Mom painted this room [-->]. Sometimes they're asked to undertake the project while other times they eagerly volunteer.

My Mom is a great seamstress--growing up, she often sewed clothes for my brother and I, and they never looked dorky. During this trip, my wife was showing her some examples of window treatments she liked from the Pottery Barn Kids' catalog. I'm not sure if Mom consciously meant to say these words or if they are simply her involuntary response to anything within the scope of her abilities (which are many), but she said, "Those would be easy to make!"

With those words, she had her projects. In addition to sewing a valance and curtains for her youngest granddaughter's room, she also made this new drape shade which covers the Levelor cordless cellular blackout shade in our toddler's room. I think they turned out better than the catalog! And my daughter loves her new hanging butterflies, also courtesy of Grandma.


Running discipline

Working out of a home office I've developed professional discipline, but I've never really been consistent with anything athletic. Since I'm committed to running the Walt Disney World Marathon next January 7, I've started training, but my schedule hasn't been consistent.

In an effort to boost my consistency, I've just registered for the Labor Day U.S. 10k Classic, which is less than 2 months away. The course is nothing but hills, but that's what I run today anyway, so it shouldn't kill me if I discipline myself and stay with my running schedule.

I've also set up an account at Cool Running, which has a nice (and free!) online tool to log my runs. It also has a marathon schedule which is slightly different than the one I'm using today, but I like being able to keep everything online rather than an Excel spreadsheet which I'm now using.


Google launches Picasa Web Albums

Google acquired Picasa two years ago, and this has long been a great tool for organizing photos with one glaring problem: no web hosting. Just a month ago, Google quietly launched a beta version of Picasa Web Albums which fixes this limitation. Unlike Flickr, I've found Picasa to be easy to use, and in typical Google fashion, they've done it right: 250mb of free storage and the photos can be stored in high-resolution, unlike most free photo hosting sites.


Experimenting with Audioblogger

this is an audio post - click to play


Realtor partner for Cobb County

I made some negative comments earlier this year about real estate agents, and I regret not addressing the exceptions.

Over the last several years I've interviewed and spoken with numerous real estate agents hoping to find one to ally myself with for real estate investing. Last year I finally found my partner for residential real estate transactions in East Cobb: Kathy Drewien's North Atlanta Realty Group. I worked with both Kathy and Vivian Lacy when I purchased my fixer-upper last year.

I believe that good service is rare, and I don't endorse someone's product or service lightly. Kathy claims to offer trusted, personal, professional service, and she is true to her word. I've recommended her services through word-of-mouth, but like the Dyson vacuum and Briggs & Riley luggage, I decided I needed to give the North Atlanta Realty Group mention in my blog.

And those looking for representation farther north (the I-575 corridor of Cherokee, Pickens, and Gilmer counties) would be well-served by Brad Nix from Maxsell Real Estate. Brad also keeps an active blog at Atlanta 575 Real Estate.

The Da Vinci Code

I'll let you in on a secret: I don't read books. No, I'm not illiterate. I'm ADHD, and one of the ways it manifests itself in me is that I lack the ability to concentrate and absorb a story whenever I'm reading a long text. I may be able to finish a chapter with good recall, but shortly thereafter, I'll realize that I've finished another 5 or 6 pages with absolutely no recollection of the words I've just read... so I have to flip back in the book to the last thing I remember. It's really frustrating and not enjoyable at all, so I've given up on reading books. I have no trouble reading & recalling information from newspapers or magazines because the articles are much shorter.

Multimedia is an entirely different matter. Of course I have no trouble paying attention during a movie unless it has Nicolas Cage or some equally annoying over-actor. I have no trouble concentrating on the spoken word (except for weekly conference calls at work, and who doesn't?), so I also enjoy books on tape/CD. And when I'm on a family road trip, sometimes my wife reads out loud while I drive.

During one such drive, she read me The Da Vinci Code. I liked the book. From a Christian perspective, I especially like the premise that Jesus Christ may have been married and conceived a child. Jesus was a Jew, and to be an unmarried male Jew in his 30's would have been very unusual. In fact, my reading of the scriptures doesn't address his marital state, which lends credibility to the argument that perhaps he was married (since being unmarried would have been more unusual, and therefore more likely to be addressed). I personally believe that Christ was both God and man, and one of the reasons He became man was to experience life as a man, with all of its joys, sorrows, experiences, and temptations. I can think of no other experience that would make Christ more "man" than marriage. This concept doesn't undermine my beliefs at all.

To many Christians, though, this book really shakes their faith. This is from an email exchange with a community group leader at North Point and friend of mine:

The reason I stopped reading it [The Da Vinci Code] is basically due to my personality. I am VERY easily swayed when somebody offers me evidence. And, I don't go to the next step to explore the topic further and understand other evidence. I get too bored and give up. However, I know that there is a lot of contradicting evidence to the things he proposes in the book, from sources that I trust. I've researched some of it on the web. Since I trust these people, (Max Lucado, Charles Stanley, the Bible, etc...) it's hard for me to read something that, to me, totally contradicts my beliefs. To me, it's a very dangerous slope to get involved with things that contradict the Bible, even from a strictly educational perspective. I can't separate the two in my mind. Of course, that's because I believe the Bible is completely infallible. It's hard for me to believe that God would let a book (the Bible) be so misleading for so many years and that this "evidence" hasn't ever really reached the mainstream. The Bible, along with prayer, is how he communicates with us. Why would he choose for it to be incorrect??
And yes, I find it disappointing that someone wouldn't pursue an idea because it contradicts their existing beliefs, especially one who has a position of leadership within the church. Such individuals choose to live a life of self-imposed ignorance.

And now to the real point of today's blog.... with my parents visiting, my wife and I got an unusual reprieve from bedtime duties and decided to go on a date last night. After dinner at Bahama Breeze, we went to see The Da Vinci Code. I was impressed at how closely the movie mirrored the story line of the book. Two thumbs up.


New air freshener

With a lot going on I got several weeks behind opening my personal snail-mail, but I'm finally caught up. In addition to the usual subscription notices, mortgage refinancing letters, and slew of magazines, I received an unexpected gift from my friends Rob of Chasing the Fluency God and his wife Staci of NovelChick.

During their trip to Seattle, they were kind enough to think of me and my musty-smelling Ford Explorer and bought me a car freshener. And lest you think I have friends who would purchase me a $.49 car freshener assembled and packaged by a 6 year old in China to be sold at Wal-Mart, I'm here to say that my friends have style and know my particular taste in car fresheners because they sent me George Bush's Dumbass Head on a String.

Recommended uses include: in the car, under the toilet seat, anywhere there are hard to reach odors that need Republican attention... like our national debt.


Renters wanted

Fortunately it's not the perfect storm where none of my rental properties have tenants, but it still hurts to have two homes with vacancies.

Yesterday I had an open house, and despite having several individuals commit to touring the place, no one showed up. Later, though, I scheduled an appointment with someone to tour another property I recently finished. About an hour after scheduling the appointment, another individual called wanting to see that same property, so I scheduled her for the same time.

I've found that scheduling two or more prospective tenants at the same time creates a sense of urgency to submit an application along with the $40 fee, and today was no exception. Not only did I get the application and fee, but she also put down the deposit (same as first month's rent) as she expected her credit report to be spotless. It's too late to pull her credit report today, but I will first thing on Wednesday, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


Safety in the air

In Friday's USA Today, there was a cover story about the the fact that there hasn't been a U.S. airline passenger death in over 4 1/2 years. The story attributed this improved safety rating to 1) better technology--specifically the FAA-required ground-detection equipment which alerts pilots when they're accidentally flying into terrain or water (the leading cause of death in airline accidents between 1987 to 2004) -and- 2) better pilot and crew training.

Since 2000, the odds of a crash are one in 22.8 million flights. Most startling to me is the following perspective: at the aforementioned rate, a traveler would have to fly every day for more than 64,000 years before dying in an accident.


View from the top

I used to really enjoy traveling, but the older I get, the less I like to be away from my family. Many would think it would be easy to have my family travel with me since my wife is a full time Mom and my girls aren't of school age, but it's not. First, it's not cheap to travel (have you checked airfares lately?); second, their schedules often have more events than mine; and third, it's next to impossible to sleep in a regular hotel room with a toddler and newborn. So 99% of the time I travel alone.

And every now and then I'm reminded of some of the perks of traveling. I woke up in my 16th floor room at the Omni Orlando Championsgate this past Monday to this view, and it reminded me of waking up in my former house in Orlando. That house had an awesome pool, huge windows, and a beautiful view of a lake. I really miss that house.


Saved from 7,000 miles of air travel

Something came up at the last minute so my meeting on the west coast was cancelled, saving me from hours of air travel. I'm back on a plane tomorrow, but fortunately it's less than a two hour flight.


Home office

In preparing to introduce myself to my new team and coworkers next week, I cleaned up my office to take this picture to show that despite the perception, unfortunately home office does not = beach.

Go ahead and laugh... that's an HP Color LaserJet 5M circa 1974 that you see on my desk. It's about the same size and weight as my car, but it's cheap to operate and prints great color charts & graphs. Unfortunately it sucks at printing photos.


Jet lag in perspective

My new job unofficially starts next week, and it's going to be the travel week from hell. I'll rack up over 9,000 frequent flier miles as I leave this Sunday night and won't spend consecutive nights in the same bed (or city) until next Saturday. I'll also be flying my first red-eye in years.

I love working in the travel business... if only I didn't have to travel.

It's not much, but Monday-Friday I usually "manage" the girls from 6pm-7pm (bedtime is 7pm) to give my wife something of a break. That hour is a daily reminder that while being a full-time stay-at-home Mom may be rewarding, fulfilling, and any other adjective you'd like to insert, it's not a job I could ever do. I'm never more tired than after spending an hour fully-engaged with the girls.

So of course the person who really gets screwed when I'm traveling like this is my wife, whose day revolves around changing diapers and keeping our toddler from killing herself while trying to maintain her own sanity.


How to surprise Dad on Father's Day!

It wasn't quite Father's Day, but it was close enough. Last week I lucked out and got to see my Dad in person and wish him a happy Father's Day. On Friday I was in Dallas for meetings which could have lasted until late in the afternoon; instead they ended at 2:00pm, so I stopped by my brother's architecture office in Dallas to see him and the office he designed a year ago. Since I didn't anticipate having time for anything other than work, I didn't let my family know I was going to be in town. Needless to say, my brother was surprised to see me.

I'm going to be an uncle around Christmas, so I helped my brother with his last pre-kid vacation plans, and then we said our good bye. As I headed west to my parents' house, though, my brother called. He had just spoken with my Dad and found out that my Mom didn't go straight home after work, so she wasn't going to be at the house until later. I took the first major road south--Loop 12, and headed towards Grand Prairie to hang out with my brother and slightly-showing sister-in-law until my Mom got home.

We lost track of time, but my parents finally called to say they were both home. As I drove north towards my parents' house, I realized it was almost 6:30pm, and I had a 7:45pm flight. So I called them back to ask if they wouldn't mind following me to the airport to expedite the rental car dropoff. It's my parents, so of course they didn't mind. I also got my "I'm afraid I'm going to break the computer" Mom to check me into my flight online and print out my electronic boarding card to save me time. Her PC didn't break, she did everything perfect, and it saved me about 15 minutes at the airport, so hopefully her confidence in her PC-literacy is growing. Once at their house I got to see the newly-tiled hallway and remodeled guest bath, all of which they did themselves (no, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree).

After dropping off the rental car, a nice 2006 Subaru Outback--much improved over the 2005 model, my Dad chauffeured me to Terminal E as I tucked his Father's Day card into my Mom's purse for her to give him on Sunday. I called my Dad on Sunday to say that I forgot to let him know what his gift is: a trip to Atlanta this fall to see his granddaughters and then see a Sunday Falcons game of his choosing. It's my small way of saying, "Thanks for all of your help this year. I love you, Dad. You're my hero."


Maybe by 3:00am

My head hit the pillow when I began hearing a "ping... ping... ping..." sound. It sounded like a bb pellet hitting a metal shed, but it was too rhythmic to be that. Then it hit me--s#!t, water is leaking somewhere.

Sure enough, it was the usual suspect. I have a toilet that is possessed in my upstairs guest bathroom, and after replacing every f*#^ing gasket and part on the damned toilet, it still wants to piss me off. This time it's really done a number and leaked down to the ceiling on the first floor. The sound I heard was water dripping off of a light fixture (the light in the right of this pic) into the sink in the wet bar.

Add this to the honey-do list. And Mom & Dad, I promise this will be fixed permanently by the time you visit over the 4th of July holiday.


After last week's trip to San Francisco, where I slept between 4 and 5 hours each night, I'm finally caught up on my Z's. Last night I got 12 hours of sleep, which is probably the most I've had in over a year. I could have slept longer, but I have the cutest pajama-wearing alarm clock who gets in my face and says, "Daddy, go work!"

Tonight I won't be so lucky. I should be in bed by 2:00am, but I've got to be up by 5:00am to catch an 8:00am flight.

I did my first marathon-training run today and made it 1.2 miles without spraining an ankle or twisting a knee. My first couple of months of running will be devoted to building strength and making a habit of running with proper form. Next I'll focus on endurance followed by improving my speed. Right now my goal is to beat my former time and break the 4 hour mark. By December, the goal will probably be to simply finish!


Van Halen didn't ruin my hearing

In high school I was really into loud music, and Van Halen's 5150 was the cassette (yes, I'm dating myself) of choice. I read with amusement how kids are using a ringtone that uses a high frequency that most adults can't hear. Who says American kids aren't creative?

I was surprised that playing Van Halen on volume 11 hadn't damaged my hearing, and I could hear this annoying ringtone. Of course I can also hear when my TV is on even though the Comcast receiver is off, so maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised.

Listen to the ringtone here and see if you still have youthful ears.

Ten years later

Ten years ago next January, I ran in my first and only marathon. It was the Walt Disney World marathon. I was a young, only 27. I was unprepared but lucky--I only trained for 4 weeks, and yet I finished in just over 4 hours (and barely under a 10 minute mile).

I was also foolish. I wore a white cotton t-shirt, and by the end of the race it looked like someone had shot me twice in the chest because of the bloody red circles on the shirt made by my bleeding nipples that had been rubbed raw from the hours of friction. It was around mile 8 that I remember seeing volunteers holding buckets of petroleum jelly out for runners, and I recall thinking, "What in the heck is that for?" By mile 20 I knew its purpose, but it was already too late--the skin where my arms brushed against my sides and my thighs brushed against each other was already chafed and raw. I remember passing the mile 25 marker and thinking, "Thank God, only 1 more mile to go." When I saw mile marker 26 near Epcot's Spaceship Earth and no finish line, I asked a race official where in the heck it was? Yes, I was very unprepared. A marathon is 26.2 miles.

I've recently lost my "pregnancy weight" and am down to under 150#. What--guys don't gain sympathy weight? I do. I put on over 25 pounds during both of my wife's pregnancies with our daughters and then promptly lost it. So I'm not overweight and am in decent shape, but I really want to get into the habit of running. I know myself, though. If I don't set an end-goal, I'll continue my habit of semi-regularly going out for a run. This is something that has been on my mind for several weeks, and I've decided to make the jump: you'll find me at Walt Disney World on January 7, 2007, spending the morning running 26.2 miles. The last time I did this, I trained and ran with a coworker. This time I'll run alone. Training starts this week. Wish me luck!


I left my job in San Francisco

As I mentioned back in April, my job is going away. I was pretty certain that I'd be leaving the company and taking a severance package, but a position became available at the 11th hour in a different division which I accepted. I'll be joining two of my friends at work (and peers) who have also accepted positions within the same department, so at least some of the old team will remain together.

The entire team is out in San Francisco this week for our last company meeting, and there's a bit of melancholy mixed with the excitement of starting something new. It'll probably be a long while before I'm back out to this great city, and I'll really miss the perk of visiting SFO on an expense account.


It's 3:00am, and you want to do what?!

Parenting has officially become a pain in the ass, and I'm not bearing the brunt of the hassle with potty training our toddler--my wife is.

My rude awakening to potty training was maybe a year ago when my wife and I were watching a couple's 3-year old daughter who we'll call "M". My wife was somewhere else in the house when "M" told me she needed to use the potty. Thank goodness she's potty trained, I thought. "M" asked me to help her onto the toilet and then asked me to stay in the bathroom with her. I thought the paint was going to peel off the walls she was so foul, and then I got the shock of all shocks--"M" asked me to wipe her. WTF? "I thought you were potty trained," I asked the 3-year old. "I am," she replied. "So why do you want me to wipe your bottom?" I asked. "I can't," is all she would say. I did as she asked, and then promptly scrubbed down with a brillo pad. Upon exiting the bathroom, I went to the expert and learned that this is quote normal. "Great," I thought, "I wonder what else I don't know."

Back to the here-and-now. My daughter's normal bedtime is ~ 7:00pm, but for the last several days, she hasn't really gone to sleep until 9:00pm because every 10 minutes she gets out of bed feeling like she needs to go potty. My response would be to put her back into bed and tuck the sheets in really tight. I've been told that's not the way to handle this situation, and since I haven't read squat about this subject, I'll rely on my wife's comprehensive research. My wife has since warned me this may take a long time, and that it may be years before our daughter is able to "hold it" long enough to sleep through the night.

Last night didn't have near the mid-REM interruptions as Friday night when at 3:00am I found my daughter at our bedside telling us she needed to go potty.